Speaking in his latest press conference ahead of the Magpies’ home match against the reigning champions, the 44-year-old gave an update on the current fitness situations surrounding Ryan Fraser and Matt Targett.
On the ex-Bournemouth winger, Howe said: “Ryan we hope will be fit and available. He had a back spasm last week, so he was a late withdrawal from the Brighton game.”
Speaking about Targett, the Newcastle boss said that they will make a “very late decision” on whether the left-back will be able to play after he picked up a hamstring issue earlier this month which kept him out of last weekend’s clash against Brighton & Hove Albion.
With Howe unable to give a definitive answer as to whether either of those two will be fit enough to take part in tomorrow’s clash at St James’ Park, this will surely be a worry for everyone connected with the club.
The Magpies haven’t conceded a goal in the league this term, but Pep Guardiola’s side not only scored more goals (99) than any other team in the division last season, they also had the joint-highest number of goals in the league prior to this weekend’s round of fixtures.
Therefore, having Targett available would surely be a big positive for Newcastle, especially with only two other defenders posting a higher combined total of tackles and interceptions than the Englishman (75) in the league last season at St James’ Park.
Meanwhile, Fraser ended the previous league campaign with a higher rate for goal-creating actions per 90 minutes (0.37) than any other player at the club. This shows how he could be a danger in terms of creating problems for City’s defence, which has yet to be breached so far in the current Premier League campaign.
If both players are fit enough to be available for selection tomorrow afternoon, this should give Howe a better chance of being able to cause damage to the Citizens and potentially see them drop points for the first time this season.
However, with the manager’s update on the two players being laced with caution, worry could be the predominant feeling among Howe, his coaching staff and the Toon Army until the match kicks off.